Skip to main content

SpaceX offers ride to Soyuz astronaut in case of ISS emergency

Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft suffered damage at the International Space Station (ISS) in December when a leak caused it to lose a large amount of coolant.

Following an investigation, NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, decided to send a replacement Soyuz spacecraft on February 20.

Related Videos

But the unusual incident left the ISS operators with a serious concern: How would it evacuate the three Soyuz astronauts — Roscosmos’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, and NASA’s Francisco Rubio — in the event of an emergency?

It’s now been decided that if there’s a call to evacuate the ISS before the replacement Soyuz arrives, Rubio will enter SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which brought the four Crew-5 astronauts to the ISS in October, while Prokopyev and Petelin will enter the damaged Soyuz spacecraft.

That might sound like a raw deal for the Russians, but analysis by ISS operators suggests the capsule would be safe to bring the pair home in the unlikely event of an ISS emergency occurring in the coming weeks.

The concern about the Soyuz capsule is that without its coolant, the interior could heat up to a dangerous level as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.

But ISS program manager Joel Montalbano said at a recent press conference that taking Rubio out of the Soyuz would remove one-third of the human heat load, easing the stress on the spacecraft.

But NASA had to also find out if the Crew Dragon would be able to carry one more person than it was designed for. Following a review of the spacecraft’s systems, the vehicle was indeed declared safe to carry Rubio.

If the Dragon is needed for an emergency evacuation, the American astronaut will sit on a seat liner in a spot usually reserved for cargo, and cargo straps will be used to secure him to the floor.

Results of an initial investigation suggest the Soyuz leak was caused by a micrometeoroid striking the capsule at high speed. Stich said SpaceX designed the Crew Dragon with extra shielding to combat such strikes, with future builds possibly gaining even more protection.

Editors' Recommendations

SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts arrive safely at space station
The space station crew all together following the arrival of SpaceX's Crew-6 in March 2023.

SpaceX's four Crew-6 members have safely boarded the International Space Station (ISS) following a voyage that lasted about 27 hours.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:34 a.m. ET on Thursday and reached the orbital outpost about 24 hours later.

Read more
NASA eyes weather for Thursday’s Crew-6 launch. Here’s how it’s looking
From left, NASA astronauts Warren “Woody” Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a dress rehearsal for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission launch on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

NASA and SpaceX are making final preparations for its first crewed launch since October 2022.

The Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is set to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:34 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 2 (9:34 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1).

Read more
SpaceX deploys first batch of more powerful Starlink satellites
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches in February 2023.

After scrubbing Monday’s Crew-6 launch due to a last-minute technical glitch with the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX moved ahead with the launch of another Falcon 9 rocket from the same launch facility, carrying into orbit another batch of satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service.

However, these ones are different to the several thousand Starlink satellites that are already circling Earth.

Read more